Innovative Catalysts for the production of green hydrogen: the single atoms at work identified

The results of the research published in Nature Catalysis
EC-STM images of innovative catalyst and schematic image of the process at the interface

What is required for a development based on hydrogen economy? A sustainable production of hydrogen starting from water through a low-cost electrochemical process, which is the production of what is called green hydrogen.

This is the objective of a team of researchers at the University of Padova, directed by Prof. Gaetano Granozzi and at the Department of Materials Science of the University of Milano-Bicocca, led by Prof. Cristiana Di Valentin, who fine-tuned an innovative strategy for the optimization of the catalysts, indispensable to make the electrochemical process both economic and efficient.

Thanks to an extremely sophisticated technique (Electrochemical Scanning Tunneling Microscopy, EC-STM) refined at the University of Padova, it was possible to visualize with atomic resolution the single catalytic sites during the electrochemical process of hydrogen production in the innovative catalytic systems based on bidimensional materials like graphene and non-noble metals that does not need noble metals which are expensive and scarcely available, like those actually utilized for the electrochemical splitting of water. Using the state-of-the-art quantum mechanical simulations developed at the University of Milano-Bicocca, in the group of Prof. Di Valentin, it was possible to interpret the data in terms of the atomic properties of the material and the reaction mechanisms.

The results have been published in the article entitled “Operando visualization of the hydrogen evolution reaction with atomic scale precision at different metal-graphene interfaces” (DOI: 10.1038/s41929-021-00682-2) in the journal Nature Catalysis.